Sinking In

by Harry

I’m in the shower.

I’m being very thorough.

Not that I’m not always very thorough—I am.

Shut up.

As I wash between my toes, I realize that I am silently narrating what I am doing. I used to do this when I would give Elly a bath. When he was tiny. “Now we’re washing your feet, we’re getting them super clean…”

I’m washing between the toes of the left foot and I’m relaxing my right foot on the floor of the shower—standing on all four corners. Then I switch feet and balance on my left while I clean the right.

This mindful shower takes a long time. And it gives me a chance to pay attention to my body. To trace meridians, to feel energy moving up and down my spine, to notice the muscles, and bones. And scars.

When Elly was a baby and I would give him a bath I was always amazed that he had no scars. Every night I wondered how long he would go with no scars. How long could the boy last without getting hurt? How long could I protect him?

I’m in the shower to wash off anything that can come between me and the water I’m about to sink into. The dirt. The oil. The dust. But also the distraction. It’s preparation—realization before I stop for a while. Before I pause.

I have scars. I have muscles. I am aware of my own energy. This body is a nice place to live. It has history. Power. Holiness. I need to remember that.

Out of the shower, I walk down the seven steps and into the pool of rainwater. I stand still for a moment, getting used to it.

There’s something different about this water. It’s not quite clear, and not quite cloudy. It’s holding the light from the fixtures overhead, rather than reflecting it. There’s a closeness to this water. It is as if I am not so much in it, as it is around me. Mikvah water is called mayim hayyim. Living water. And it feels like that.

Exhaling, I empty out my lungs and let myself go under completely. Opening my eyes, I see that the warmth of the light I noticed on the surface is even more pronounced down here. I lift my feet up and I’m suspended underwater. I’m not floating and I’m not sinking. I am neutral and it is silent.

I break the surface, inhale deeply and recite the blessing for this experience. This completely weird experience. This unlikely moment. And everything that went into it.

Another exhalation and another sinking. I watch the air leave my lungs through my nose and bubble to the surface.

My yoga teachers taught me that the pause between the exhalation and the inhalation is the gateway to our deepest Self. I break the surface and inhale again. Pause. Exhale underwater. Pause. And break the surface for the last time today. Pause.

This past Shabbat we read Vayikra (Vayikra [Leviticus] 1:1-5:26) It’s all about sacrifices and it’s pretty boring. I think Rashi must have been bored too. But the name of the parasha (and the name of the book of Leviticus in Hebrew) is וַיִּקְרָא. It means “And He called.”

Rashi notes that every topical section starts out with some description of God speaking, calling, saying…something to Moshe. But there are also subsections. He wonders why there are subsections. Why bother? The subsections are about the same topic after all.

The answer is so that Moshe will have a chance to pause and take it all in. God is teaching Moshe some very specific things that need to be done. Maybe unpleasant things. Difficult things. But necessary things. Best pause for a minute and let them sink in.

I came to the mikvah this morning to mark the beginning of a change in my life. I am going to change what I do for a living. Completely.  It will involve going back to school. And learning. A lot of learning. Some of it will be boring. Some of it will piss me off.

And it will involve sacrifice. A lot of sacrifice, probably. But it’s what I need to do.

Best pause and let it sink in.